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Fiber Applications

Fiber Applications Innovative Tea-Bag Material Made From PLA Fibres Ahlstrom Corporation, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland is a global leader in the development and manufacture of high performance fiber-based materials. Last June the company presented its innovative, biodegradable nonwoven for infusion applications at the Tea & Coffee World Cup exhibition in Seville, Spain. Thanks to an innovative, ahead of the curve investment at the Chirnside, Scotland operations, Ahlstrom introduced a world premier to the infusion market: a lightweight, fine filament web based on NatureWorks‘ Ingeo PLA. It is designed to deliver functional benefits to converters and consumers of tea-bags, while featuring unique environmental characteristics. Now commercially available, it was presented for the first time at a European exhibition. “The raw material and the fine filament webs are fully biodegradable and compostable. An independent LCA (life cycle assessment) carried out to ISO 14040 standards demonstrated that these webs have a lower carbon footprint compared to similar products made of oil-based polymers“ says Mike Black, Ahlstrom‘s General Manager, Food Nonwovens. The principal ingredient is PLA. This also means that the raw material for this product is based on 100% annually renewable resources. While responding to the growing demand for sustainable food packaging solutions, the new product also delivers remarkable functional benefits. The extra fine webs highlight the contents while maintaining shape and easily accommodating tea-bag strings and tags. The resulting tea-bags look different and feel different to the touch: they represent the ideal choice for brand owners wanting to highlight quality infusions and to differentiate their premium blends, the fastest growing segment in the market. Suitable for conversion on tea-packing machines that use ultrasonic sealing technology, the new materials complement Ahlstrom‘s wide range of traditional heatsealable and non-heatsealable filter webs for tea and coffee. Ahlstrom now offers the broadest range of beverage filtration materials available on the market, with manufacturing both in Europe and North America. Ahlstrom infusion materials are part of the company‘s Advanced Nonwovens business area and can be found worldwide in numerous everyday applications. These include tea-bag materials manufactured primarily in the UK and USA and used by leading tea packers such as Tetley, Typhoo or Unilever. The products are sold globally through the Ahlstrom sales network. - MT 12 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/09] Vol. 4

Fiber Applications Plant-Based Materials for Automobile Interiors Toray Industries, Inc. with headquarters in Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan has started full-fledged mass production of its environment-friendly fiber materials based on PLA and plant-derived polyesters for automobile applications. Toray has already been supplying the materials for the trunk and floor carpeting to Toyota Motor Corp. in its latest hybrid model of Lexus, the HS 250h, launched in July this year. At the same time, Toray is promoting the products to other automakers. Toray aims to have annual sales of 200 tons for the first year for products including ceiling upholstery and door trim materials, and expects them to grow to 5,000 tons per year by 2015. Materials to be used in different automobile interior parts have to clear tough and varied physical property requirements. Generally, environment-friendly materials such as PLA used to be believed to lack in heat and wear resistance properties in comparison to regular polyester. Though various efforts were being made to address those weaknesses, the adoption of such materials in automobile applications had so far been limited to a few models due to a number of shortcomings. This time Toray developed various technologies for compounding environment-friendly materials with petroleum-based products, including a proprietary hydrolysis control technology to modify polymer and techniques for compounding using polymer alloys and in the process of fiber spinning as well as mixed fiber compounding during higher processing. By making full use of these technologies, Toray succeeded in achieving the significantly high levels of durability sought by automobile interior applications, enabling actual adoption by mass-produced vehicles. Having cleared the tough physical property benchmarks for automobile interiors, Toray will focus on further development of materials with higher plant-derived biomass percentage and expand the materials’ applications into wideranging applications such as general apparel and industrial materials. In this age of growing importance for environmentconsciousness, automobile manufacturers are striving to develop advanced technologies and aiming for a motorized society that can co-exist with the environment. The companies are actively considering a shift from the existing petroleumbased materials to products made from plant-derived materials for interior components which make up about 5 to 10% of a vehicle’s body weight. The use of plant-derived materials is expected to explode in the future, given the fact that it has low CO 2 emissions in its lifecycle from production to disposal and it helps in curbing the use of the limited fossil fuel resources. Under its Innovation by Chemistry slogan, Toray is actively pursuing the development of environment-friendly products and aims to contribute to the development of a sustainable, recycling-oriented society through its sales of environmentfriendly automobile parts. Photos: Lexus / Toyota bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/09] Vol. 4 13

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